Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Trick to Adding Sugar

This summer I was listening to a Jamil Zainasheff podcast about making Tripel beers, and he was asked if he’d ever had a really good, homebrewed Tripel. He stated that he hadn’t, saying that many of them were too sweet, and even cloying. He suggested that since Tripels usually have a large amount of sugar as part of the recipe bill, that brewers who wanted the beer to finish dry should add the sugar later in the fermentation process, rather than during the boil. This would require the yeast to get all the maltose provided by the malt BEFORE the yeast would convert the easier sucrose. Given the choice of the two, the yeast would spend all of their energy working on the sucrose first and THEN go after the maltose.

I have only made one Tripel, and I found that my beer did not finish as low as I wanted it to. While 1.014 was decent finishing gravity, or so I thought, I still found the beer to be a little more sweet than other Tripels I liked (not to mention the fact that I used a half pound of Crystal 20ยบ L, which I thought would be cool, but was totally unnecessary).

A friend and I wanted to brew a beer together, and he suggested looking at Northern Brewer’s kit called The Number 8. I’m not sure if this kit was patterned after a particular commercial beer (maybe the Rochefort 8?), but it appears to be a Belgian dark strong. I made some small changes to the recipe and named this beer “Magic Eightball” and then later just “8*Ball”. I will cover this beer in another post.

I decided to try two new techniques with this beer. The first was to open ferment it for 48 hours. I was inspired by a Brewing TV episode on this subject. While I think that Dawson let his wheat beer go for more like 72 hours, I was nervous about it. I roused the yeast after about 12 hours, and it had a nice kreuzen going (big clouds of yeasty foam on top), and I did this about every 12 hours, until I was freaked out enough to boil the two and a half pounds of sugar in 2 quarts of water, chill it, and then dump it into the fermenter and pop the lid on it. Within a half hour, the 3-piece ferment lock was popping like a machine gun.

That beer finished at 1.008. Way better than I could have hoped.

For my birthday, my brewing buddy, John, bought me the ingredients for Maison, my Saison recipe. Again, this beer included a pound of Demerara sugar, so I boiled it in a quart of water and added it to the beer after 48 hours of open fermentation. Again, it finished lower than any other beer I brewed, this time at 1.006.

There may be other things at play here with me adding the sugar late. All I know is that both of these beers taste great, and I’ll be discussing them soon in further detail.